AC360° Senior Producer
The efforts by President Obama and Congress to rescue the economy have been book-ended by two major, heart-wrenching events that have the power to pull people together. And I'm not talking about House and Senate votes.
I'm talking about plane crashes. One of which, the "Miracle on the Hudson" on Jan. 16, wasn't actually a crash, but a "ditching," but only because of Sully's cool-headed landing skills.
I've covered a number of plane crashes, talked with family members of passengers who've died, and survived, and people in neighborhoods who might've been killed, but instead have been awed by the horror that fell near them. I've talked with pilots and investigators and seen a few things you don't really want to see.
And I've noticed one effect of a plane crash on many people is a pulling together. People often realize for a few hours, or days or years, what it's all about. People open up to others, they talk about their feelings, they think about what's really important to them. Some have told me they see things in a different way, with more heart, a deeper feel for pain and joy, or for other human beings.
Later, of course, they, and we, have to go back to our lives, families, work, and the grindstone. But for those who've been affected, plane crashes can give a sort of lasting broader awareness of ourselves and others, and even a greater sense of community. Sometimes.
Has that happened in this country today?
On Jan. 16, we were dazzled that all 155 people survived when Flight 1549 lost all power and landed safely in the Hudson River in a way that none of us have ever seen.
In a prophetic coincidence, most of them stood shin-deep on the plane's wings, making it look like they were standing on water.
And last night, in what should have been a routine landing, 50 people died when Flight 3407 crashed into a house, brought down, many suspect, by a build-up of ice. A man died in the house struck by the plane. Amazingly, a mother and child survived, though they were hospitalized.
Did you hear the interview with Chris Kausner, whose sister had been on the plane, and when he told his parents, he said, "I heard my mother make a sound that I have never heard before." "Right now," Kausner said, "I'm thinking the worst and I'm thinking about the fact that my mother has to fly home from Florida and thinking about what I'm going to tell my two sons. That's what I'm thinking."
So what are we thinking?
At his inauguration, President Obama called on Americans to pull together. "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord," he said. "On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."
Well, we have legislation to stimulate the economy, but only because one party has a majority. Despite calls for bipartisanship, neither side can agree. Even within the political parties, members don't agree.
So tonight, we'll report what we can on these two stories - the conflicting efforts to stimulate the economy, and what happened to the plane which - and the people who - crashed into a house outside Buffalo.
Have these two plane crashes, or this economic crisis, or this historic election helped us to begin to pull together? And if not, is there anything short of an even bigger disaster that could?
Or maybe we'll just keep playing out our Realpolitik.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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